Fredericksburg Essay

3901 words - 16 pages

Before the sun had even risen in the early morning of December 11th, 1862, engineers of the Army of the Potomac under General Ambrose E. Burnside, began constructing a series of pontoon bridges. These bridges were to be used to ferry Northern troops across the Rappahannock river into the city of Fredericksburg, held by General Robert E. Lee, leading the Army of Northern Virginia. Over the next few days Burnside's army would lead an attempt on the town and surrounding area that will leave the Union Army in defeat. It would be one of the largest and deadliest battles of the American Civil war, and featured large scale urban combat and was the first major river crossing under fire to be conducted by the United States (http://www.civilwar.org). This battle was a very important point in the South prolonging the war and keeping the North from victory. I will analyze this battle in detail, using the principles of war which are, objective, unity of command, offensive, mass, maneuver, simplicity, economy of force, security, and surprise.
In late 1862, the Union Army was desperate for a large victory over the Army of Northern Virginia, and to seize Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States of America (Mackowski). This capture of the Southern Capital was the main objective of the northern war effort, hoping that the capture of the capital and the Confederate government would bring an end to the war. Bringing the war to victory from the North would reunite the Union, which was president Lincoln's goal. The South's main objective of the war was to continue to fight the North and keep them from achieving victory, and on some occasions to defeat the Union Army and capture their capital of Washington. If the South had won the war their goal was to maintain being an independent nation and become recognized by the Union. While this was the overall objective of the war it explains the reason why the battle of Fredericksburg would occur in December, which itself had similar objectives. The Union objective for being at Fredericksburg was to use it was a quick point to cross the Rappahannock and cut through the South straight to Richmond hoping Lee's forces would not block them, focusing on other Northern forces and keeping them from advancing. Lee did not fall for this ploy however and his objective during the battle would be to occupy the land where Burnside's forces would cross and keep them from advancing on Richmond, these objectives brought both forces to either side of the Rappahannock, with the city of Fredericksburg in the middle. Lee's objective for the actual battle around Fredericksburg was to put up defensive positions in and around the city including artillery and blocking positions at Marye's Heights west of the city, under General Longstreet, and the hills south of the city across from Burnsides forces, under General Jackson, where they could fire on any Union forces crossing and repel them if and when they crossed. This included putting...

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